Unless something is done soon, the new budget will force all prison chaplains in the state to be laid off, effective July 1. For more than four years, we at the One Love Foundation have visited several faith groups in North Carolina prisons, often on a monthly basis. We have also sponsored several concerts attended by hundreds of inmates. All our visits and concerts serve to remind the inmates to teach and learn love, even behind prison walls.
The chaplains are essential in creating a healing and redemptive atmosphere within the prisons. They organize chapel gatherings for all faiths, especially during their holy days; they host and coordinate the many volunteers who unselfishly offer their help. They give direct personal counseling and advice to inmates in times of crisis and often to the prison staff as well. They are the heart and hearth of the institution. Every prison superintendent can vouch for the need of a caring chaplain to operate an effective and rehabilitative institution.
To remove the chaplains would also be a grave mistake in several other ways, including possible financial impacts. Without the on-site support and counseling from the chaplains, violence in the institutions, as well as recidivism, will increase as true rehabilitation decreases. On a financial level, lawsuits from inmates not given their mandated faith-based services can cost the state much more than the savings created by removing all the chaplains.
We all know that there are many troubled and lost souls in prisons (as there are everywhere), but to leave these people without any permanent, reliable spiritual comfort is to abandon them spiritually and emotionally. Is this the kind of state, the kind of society, we want to be? How would we react if we were told that our church, synagogue or temple would no longer have a pastor, rabbi or minister?
I implore the Appropriations subcommittee and Gov. Bev Purdue to rethink this budget cut and, with human compassion and kindness, reverse the decision. As Jesus reminded us in reaching out to those in distress: “I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”
— Julia and Robert Roskind
who: Marni Nixon
what: “The Voice of Hollywood” cabaret show and benefit for the Asheville Lyric Opera
where: Diana Wortham Theatre
when: Sunday, Aug. 29 (3 p.m. $35/$40/$50. Purchase tickets at 257-4530. www.ashevillelyric.org or 236-0670)